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     Volume 4 Issue 33 | February 11, 2005 |

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Prothom Bangladesh
Shesh Bangladesh

Srabonti Narmeen Ali

The Bangladesh that my parents knew and loved is long gone. The country that they had so patriotically and proudly fought for is now a mere shadow. In truth, this fast-fading dream is now a far cry from the reality that we face today. Every ideology that our parents' generation founded this country on is now a lost cause. We are a failing, undemocratic nation, beleaguered by the ever-growing fundamentalism, in which justice and fairness come in sporadic spurts.

The issue is not the bomb blast that occurred two Thursdays ago or, for that matter, the one that started all this commotion five months ago. Rather, Bangladesh's current situation is a result of a slow and steady degradation of law and order as well as morals and values that we find in every level in society. We find exploitation in every step of the class ladder. But what can we expect when religious fundamentalism and differences in political ideologies are now threatening every aspect of our lifestyle -- our safety, our freedom to speak out, our actions and even our culture.

Every inherent belief that Bangladesh was founded upon is now being attacked. We are a country that prided ourselves on secularism. In fact, our short-lived unification with Pakistan should have taught us a strong lesson -- religion cannot alone make a nation, and that there are other factors, such as cultural and traditional values, language and history. Somewhere along the way, in these last thirty-three years, people forgot to implement these beliefs, and keep them alive.

It is a sad reality that anything which religious fundamentalists deem to be "un-Islamic" in any way, shape or form, will be either destroyed or sabotaged. In many rural areas, for example, communities do not even have the ability of practicing their cultural activities, such as Jatras, without fearing repercussions from the likes of Bangla Bhai and his entourage. The Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh's (JMJB) latest target is now NGOs, because these various organisations promote the equality of women.

And we are expected to believe that no law enforcement agency can catch this man, because he is just too clever for the entire country.

At the same time no Bangladeshi in their right mind counts on law enforcement agencies for anything. It's a long running joke that policemen and their likes enforce justice as long as the side of justice has a big wallet. Since this is a problem not unique to Bangladesh one can accept it, although not condone it. However, what is the excuse for the police's lack of action in almost every situation that their help is required? When there is an accident, for example, one can always count on that lone ranger cop standing to the side enjoying the show. Or when there is a mugging incident, it's almost certain that there will be a group of policemen right around the corner enjoying their late-night tea and ignoring the victims' shouts of disconcertment and the chaos surrounding them.

Is this a country that we can be proud of -- one in which religious and cultural freedom is no longer a right? Is this a nation that we can believe in -- one in which there is no set system of justice? Is our answer to every confrontation inefficient hartals and riots, which, as the last two weeks have proved, only succeed in slowing the nation's progress economically, not to mention giving policemen, hoodlums and mastans a great opportunity to use brute force against innocent people.

Nobody knows anymore what Bangladesh stands for, because there are too many contradicting ideologies and the nation as a whole has lost sight in what it is. On top of that our corruption and exploitation levels have reached an all time high, while our moralistic values have become non-existent. It's hard to hold onto our parents faded dreams, but one has to keep hoping that this is all just a passing storm that will soon be over, and Bangladesh will be ours again.


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